Grace Church, New York

Grace Church is a historic parish church in the Episcopal Diocese of New York, located at 800 and 804 Broadway at the corner of East 10th Street, where Broadway bends to the north, with Grace Church School and the church houses – which are now used by the school – behind it at 86-98 Fourth Avenue between East 10th and 12th Streets, in Manhattan, New York City. It is a French Gothic Revival  masterpiece designed by James Renwick, Jr., his first major commission.

The church, which has been called "one of the city's greatest treasures", is a National Historic Landmark designated for its architectural significance and place within the history of New York City, and the complex is a New York City landmark, designated in 1966 (church and rectory) and 1977 (church houses).

History and architecture

Grace Church was initially organized in 1808 at Broadway and Rector Street. Under rector Thomas House Taylor, who began service at the church in 1834, the decision was made to move the church uptown with the city's expanding population. In 1843, the land on which the church was built was purchased from Henry Brevoort. The 23-year-old architect James Renwick, Jr. – a nephew of Brevoort – whose sole completed work at the time was the Bowling Green Fountain, was commissioned as the architect.

The cornerstone for the new church was laid in 1843 and the church was consecrated in 1846. Vestry minutes from January of that year break down some of the expenses for building a new church – including items ranging from the cost of the workers from Sing Sing state prison who cut the stone to the cost of the embroidery for the altar cloth. Like Trinity Church, which was also consecrated in 1846, Grace Church was designed in the Gothic Revival style, and despite the wood, plaster scored to look like stone and lathe construction – as opposed to the stone construction of medieval Gothic cathedrals. The church originally had a wooden spire, but under the leadership of the rector at the time, Henry Codman Potter, it was replaced in 1881 with a marble spire designed by Renwick.

The east window over the high altar created by the English stained glass manufacturer Clayton and Bell in 1878, dominates the chancel, and the whole church; a "Te Deum" window, its theme is praise. The figures with their faces raised toward Christ, who is seated at the top center, represent prophets, apostles, martyrs and all the world. Other windows in the church are by Henry Holiday. The reredos, with mosaic figures of the evangelists, is made of French and Italian Marble and Caen stone, and shows the four Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, flanking the Risen Christ as he gives the great commission, "Go into all the world and make disciples..." This piece, along with the altar, was designed by Renwick and executed by Ellin & Kitson in 1878. The choir furniture was installed in 1903 after the chancel was lengthened an additional fifteen feet in a renovation designed by Heins and La Farge. On the lawn in front of Renwick's Grace House (1880-1881), which connects the sancturary to his Rectory (1846-1847), stands a terra-cotta Roman urn dating from around the time of the Emperor Nero.

For a full generation after it was built it was the most fashionable church in New York: "For many years Grace has been the centre of fashionable New York", Matthew Hale Smith observed in 1869: "To be married or buried within its walls has been ever considered the height of felicity".


Like Trinity and the First Presbyterian Church, Grace Church spun off new congregations by building chapels elsewhere in the city. Its first chapel was on Madison Avenue at East 28th Street, built in 1850. The congregation became the Church of the Incarnation in 1852 and built its own sanctuary, and the chapel, which is no longer extant, was renamed the Church of the Atonement.

Grace's second chapel was located at 132 East 14th Street between Third and Fourth Avenues and was built in 1861. This Renwick designed Chapel (later Church) of the Redemption burned down in 1872. The next chapel was built on the same site, designed by Potter & Robinson, and was used as a community center for the indigent residents of the area, providing classes in English and other educational programs geared to the immigrant population. The second chapel is also no longer extant.

Finally, Grace Church built a chapel and hospital at 406 East 14th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A, both designed by Barney & Chapman. This was closed in 1943 and sold to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, which converted it into the Church of the Immaculate Conception and Clergy Houses. This complex still exists, and is New York City landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places.

Grace Church School

Grace Church School, which is now located at 86 Fourth Avenue, and also occupies the church houses to the north of it in the complex, was organized in 1894, and was the first place where choir boys could receive formal training for their duties. The day school began in 1934, and the school now offers complete secondary education for boys and girls from pre-K to eighth grade.

In 2006, the School became a legal entity separate from the Church, and owns the buildings on Fourth Avenue from #84-96, which includes Clergy House, Memorial House and Neighborhood House. The Church owns #80 (Huntington Close), as well as #100 and 102, two red-brick buildings north of the landmarked church houses.

Notable rectors
  • Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright (third rector) - promoted mission churches throughout New York state and elsewhere in the U.S., established a Charity School for Girls and one for Boys, both in 1823
  • Thomas House Taylor (fourth rector) - moved the church uptown to its current location
  • Henry Codman Potter (fifth rector) - promoted the Social Gospel, expanding the church's outreach to the poor and the immigrant community As the Bishop of New York, Potter began the long process of building the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
  • William Reed Huntington (sixth rector) - known as "the First Presbyter of the Episcopal Church", promulgated the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and worked on revising the Book of Common Prayer, expanded the church complex and continued the Social Gospel with the Chapel and Hospital on 14th Street.
Services and programs

Grace Church offers a full schedule of prayer and Eucharist services throughout the week and is also available for special occasions such as weddings and baptisms. The church has a history of providing social services to its congregants and the surrounding neighborhood: it is thought that the church provided the first day-care center in New York City, located in Renwick's Memorial House on Fourth Avenue. Today, the church provides services including a community outreach program, spiritual education classes for adults, and children and youth services. A shelter for homeless men is located in one of the church's Fourth Avenue buildings.

The church is known for its Choir of Men and Boys, which was established in 1894, and its rich musical program which includes regular organ recitals.

  • The Reverend J. Donald Waring, Rector
    • The Reverend Linda Bartholomew, Associate Rector
    • The Reverend Ted Pardoe, Assistant Rector
    • Dr. Patrick Allen, Organist and Master of Choristers
    • Maura Hooper, Youth and Children


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